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Review
. 2002 Aug;95(2):203-20.
doi: 10.1016/s0163-7258(02)00259-0.

Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Glaucoma

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Review

Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Glaucoma

Tomi Järvinen et al. Pharmacol Ther. .

Abstract

The leading cause of irreversible blindness is glaucoma, a disease normally characterized by the development of ocular hypertension and consequent damage to the optic nerve at its point of retinal attachment. This results in a narrowing of the visual field, and eventually results in blindness. A number of drugs are available to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), but, occasionally, they are ineffective or have intolerable side-effects for some patients and can lose efficacy with chronic administration. The smoking of marijuana has decreased IOP in glaucoma patients. Cannabinoid drugs, therefore, are thought to have significant potential for pharmaceutical development. However, as the mechanism surrounding their effect on IOP initially was thought to involve the CNS, issues of psychoactivity hindered progress. The discovery of ocular cannabinoid receptors implied an explanation for the induction of hypotension by topical cannabinoid applications, and has stimulated a new phase of ophthalmic cannabinoid research. Featured within these investigations is the possibility that at least some cannabinoids may ameliorate optic neuronal damage through suppression of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor hyperexcitability, stimulation of neural microcirculation, and the suppression of both apoptosis and damaging free radical reactions, among other mechanisms. Separation of therapeutic actions from side-effects now seems possible through a diverse array of novel chemical, pharmacological, and formulation strategies.

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